The Port Arthur Historic Site, located in the south-east of Tasmania on the Tasman Peninsula, is one of the most important cultural heritage sites in Australia and the world. It offers extraordinary experiences and activities related to our heritage.
The Port Arthur Historic Site Management Authority manages two properties - the Port Arthur and Coal Mines Historic Sites. Both are located on the Tasman Peninsula, near Hobart, and both are included in the Australian Convict Sites World Heritage Inscription.
The Port Arthur Historic Sites combine two of Australia’s World Heritage-listed convict heritage sites – the Port Arthur and Coal Mines Historic Sites, both on the Tasman Peninsula around 100km south-east of Hobart – with powerful storytelling and activities to create meaningful and memorable experiences that connect visitors with Australia’s history and culture.
From 1830 until 1877, Port Arthur was the place where convicts who reoffended after arriving in the colony of Van Diemans Land (now called Tasmania) were imprisoned. A key part of the colonial system of convict discipline, Port Arthur was located in a remote, harsh area that offered no chance of escape, the ideal destination for hardened, repeat offenders. In its time, it was a groundbreaking attempt to deal with issues of crime and punishment that all societies continue to address today.
Port Arthur was also much more than a prison. It was a complete community—home to the military personnel and free settlers who worked here, an industrial complex producing a huge range of resources and materials and a working farm.
Today the Port Arthur Historic Site is one of Australia’s most visited heritage attractions and has won many awards including being named Best Heritage Tourism Experience in Australia by Australian Gourmet Traveller Magazine in 2008, 2009 and 2010. Spread over an extensive landscape of gardens, parkland and natural bush, the Site contains more than thirty historic buildings and ruins. Some of its structures were partially destroyed in bushfires in the late nineteenth century; their remnants give the place an eerie countenance.
As you walk within the Site, the powerful, personal stories of convicts, soldiers, free settlers and their families will reveal themselves to you. Port Arthur's tale is told in many ways. It will stay with you long after you have departed.
Port Arthur is a place that every Australian, and all international visitors with a desire to understand more of Australia and Australians, should visit. Spending at least one night in the area will allow time to visit the Coal Mines Historic Site at Saltwater River, about a 25 minute drive from Port Arthur, and to explore the stunning coastal scenery of the region.